Pharmaceutical companies wooed academic leaders, ghostwrote articles, suppressed damaging health data and lavished doctors with gifts to make prescribing powerful psychotropic drugs to children a blockbuster profit center, a trail of lawsuits over the past two decades shows.
As a Colorado Springs sales representative for GlaxoSmithKline, Greg Thorpe tried to put a stop to the practice. His manager wrote him up for not being a “team player” after he objected to the free spa treatments and pedicures, hunting trips, tickets to sports games and skiing junkets that his supervisors expected him to give out to doctors and others.
“The sky was the limit,” said Thorpe, whose whistle-blower lawsuit against his former employer ended with a $3 billion settlement with the federal government. “Those who spent more money got rewarded because they were positioning the company for more business. And it did pay off.”
It was just one part of the massive effort by the pharmaceutical industry to drive sales of antidepressants, antipsychotics and other psychotropic drugs to treat poor children, often for uses never approved by federal regulators.
The push succeeded in reaching a particularly vulnerable group: foster children, who experts say often struggle to cope with trauma that psychotropic drugs don’t heal. …